Salmon artwork takes centre stage at COP26

© CB Bell Media
Joseph Rossano's Salmon School installation

An artwork highlighting the plight of wild salmon and celebrating projects to restore their numbers will be on display at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow next month.

Salmon School, an installation featuring more the 300 “salmon-like forms” made of hand-blown glass, is the creation of artist Joseph Rossano. The initiative has been supported by a community of artists, scientists, educators and environmental groups from around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, Salmon Nation, the Wild Salmon Center, the Atlantic Salmon Alliance and the Missing Salmon Alliance, which is leading the project to bring the installation to Glasgow.

The message of the piece is that with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, iconic wild salmon are on a path to potential extinction.

Alongside Salmon School, the Clyde River Foundation has worked with 26 primary schools along the length of the Clyde.  They have learned about the remarkable story of the return of the salmon to the Clyde and contributed to the knowledge and understanding of these remarkable fish by collecting eDNA samples from the river.  These will form part of a global database project being run by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Joseph Rossano said “As wild salmon are threatened, so are we. It is a humbling experience to see SCHOOL featured in such a significant global setting, but the movement to save Atlantic and Pacific salmon is so much bigger than any single sculpture or event. SCHOOL is inspired by the plight of wild salmon and steelhead of the Upper Skagit River. It’s inspired by the cleanup and restoration of the River Clyde in Glasgow, where salmon have returned. And it’s inspired by similar people and communities everywhere who are facing climate change through the lens of salmon.”

He added: “I think delegates at COP26 care about salmon because any pathogen that can impact salmon, any poison that can be dissolved in salt or freshwater that can impact them, impacts the food chain, impacts us. We’re learning that global climate change is a function of death by 1,000 cuts. It’s common terminology in salmon conservation and it will become common terminology in human conservation too so if there’s a canary in a coal mine it would be hard to argue that it isn’t the salmon.”

The installation also presents a beacon of hope, the organisers said, because proven management strategies can turn the tide for a species with iconic status in cultures across the planet.